Disabled community gives a thumbs down to Budget 2018

The Union Budget of 2018-19 has come as a major disappointment to the disabled community in the country, with many saying that the population does not have an priority in the government's 'fast growth economy' path.

The passing of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPD Act) had raised hopes that the disabled community in India would finally come in for attention, but the poor financial outlays for the various positive provisions contained in the Act shows the utter lack of sincerity on the part of the government to implement its provisions.

The total financial outlay for the Department for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities shows a marginal increase of Rs 215 crore as compared to last year, while the money allocated to the Schemes for the Implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act (SIPDA) is a small Rs 300 crore. This includes provisions for the Accessible India campaign under which the target set is for making 600 public buildings, 600 official websites and making transport systems accessible among others. But the campaign does not even include the disabled in rural areas.

There is also much disappointment over the lack of any accessible measures being announced in the Railways. The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled mentioned that while the last few budgets made announcements about rail transport and stations being made accessible for all, including the disabled, there is no mention of the progress made in this direction so far.

"There is no mention about the progress in the implementation of the announcement made last year of providing lifts and escalators in 500 railway stations, while this year the Finance Minister has announced that escalators would be provided at 600 stations having a footfall of 25,000 and above. Lifts which can be used by the disabled do not find mention in his speech. Also missing mention is about fulfilling the commitment made in the 2016-17 budget to provide accessible toilets at all railway stations” - National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled.

There is also unhappiness that no new scheme has been announced or any substantial increase in allocation for existing schemes been made.

NPRD also called it ironical that, while on the one hand, the government announced the National Health Protection Scheme for 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, on the other hand it failed to release money for Swavlamban Health Insurance Scheme launched in 2015 for the disabled through the New India Assurance Company Limited. The insurance company has now stopped collecting premium from beneficiaries.

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